No Offense, But…

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses. Proverbs 10:12

Have you noticed how easily we get offended?

Honestly, it doesn’t take much. It offends us if the person in the car in front of us drives too slow. Or when the service at a restaurant doesn’t meet our expectations. We even take offense when someone looks at us the wrong way—or doesn’t look at us at all.

Every day we allow grievances to snatch away our peace. Then when something really hurtful happens, we’re undone.

Beloved, Jesus went to the cross to rid us of offense.

Perhaps you’ve never thought of it that way before. But the power of the cross lies in forgiveness, and forgiveness takes no offense.

Jesus showed us what that looked like as He bled for us on the cross.

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34

The people screaming, “Crucify Him!” weren’t sorry. They hadn’t apologized. It wasn’t even over. They shouted insults while He bled for them. They celebrated His agony while He struggled to gasp out the words, “Father, forgive them.”

The love released through that act of forgiveness shook the earth and tore the veil. It crumbled the barrier that separated man from God. And it conquered sin and death in man’s heart so love and life could flow in its place—love that empowers, love that redeems, love that transforms and heals.

When we choose offense, we submit to the spirit of the world—of hatred—rather than the Spirit of love Christ poured out. We choose our sin nature instead of Christ’s nature. Jesus always forgives.

1 Corinthians 13:5 tells us love does not insist on its own way, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Hatred keeps that record, dear one. It remembers every offense.

Can you see why God compels us to forgive, dear one? God is love, and love covers all offenses (Proverbs 10:12).

Beloved, you and I have been empowered by the Holy Spirit dwelling within us to live driven by Christ’s love rather than sin’s hate. We’ve been given a new nature—Christ’s nature—and that nature offers the power to dramatically change our present circumstances. When walking in that nature, we enjoy the beautiful fruit the Holy Spirit provides.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Galatians 5:22-23

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t you love to live each day feeling your heart swell with love and bubble over with joy? Wouldn’t you love the peace of God to wash away your anxiety and worry? Don’t you long to find yourself empowered to patience instead of blowing up at the people you love?

Unfortunately, that isn’t where most of us live. Instead, we far more readily give in to our flesh, spending much of our days tied up in knots, feeling frustrated, angry, depressed, and overcome by the circumstances we find ourselves in. Our families end up baring the brunt of our misery.

What are we missing? Perhaps Matthew 6:14-15 will shed some light on the root of our struggle.

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Powerful words. Jesus said if I refuse to forgive others, God won’t forgive me. Let’s put it another way. If I refuse to release others, God doesn’t release me.

No wonder so many of us feel stuck.

Taking offense and harboring bitterness in your heart will keep you from experiencing the grace of forgiveness in your own life. That means the power God offers through forgiveness gets held back, and you feel the weight of the offense you carry.

You may have noticed. Offense imprisons you in darkness.

Dear one, God’s command to forgive those who offend us isn’t about letting them off the hook. It’s about allowing God’s power to continue to flow into our lives. Bitterness blocks the flow of His love, and love empowers everything God does.

You and I don’t deserve forgiveness, dear one. We’re guilty. But Jesus offers it anyway and asks us to receive it by faith.

Yet we struggle to extend that grace others. We want people to earn it. And we won’t offer forgiveness freely because whoever hurt us doesn’t deserve it.

I won’t argue with you. Nobody really deserves forgiveness. The very fact that we need to extend it means that a wrong has taken place.

But God’s not asking us to let people off the hook when He asks us to forgive them. He’s asking us to let Him bear the burden. He’s asking us to trust His promise in Exodus 14:14,

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (NIV)

When we trust God to keep His Word and surrender our bitterness, a beautiful thing happens. He moves on our behalf. And trusting Him accesses the grace of God to provide the fruit of the Spirit in us. Love replaces anger. Joy replaces bitterness. Peace overshadows strife.

Forgive, dear one, so you can be forgiven. Release your captors so that you can live free.

Is This What Love Looks Like?

“Choose Love, not Hate.”

I believe it’s an excellent proposition. Everything in me agrees with its message.

But as I watch the behavior of many who presently proclaim that message, I find myself confused.

How does throwing water on people just trying to attend a party demonstrate love? When did hurling insults at strangers—or spitting on them, for that matter—become an expression of love?

Yet people claiming that “Love trumps hate” are doing these very things. In the name of denouncing prejudice and discrimination, they project hatred toward people who have done them no personal offense except to think differently about something.

Isn’t that discrimination, dear one?

What about the right to have an opinion? Isn’t that a human right?

It’s amazing what fear can do unchecked in the human heart. It brings out the very worst in us. And make no mistake. That’s precisely the intent of the one who invokes it.

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7

Whenever fear governs us, God does not. Instead we have allowed the deceiver to whisper his vain imaginations into our hearts and received them as truth, giving him control of our thoughts. That control allows him to manipulate our wills. And what he incites us to do will always reflect the ugliness of his nature.

Jesus clearly defined that nature in John 10:10.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

We are seeing these truths played out before us on our streets and video screens. People are randomly destroying property belonging to the very humans they claim to love and fight for—people they don’t know and who have done them no personal harm—out of an irrational fear of the power one man holds. A man the enemy has convinced them to hate.

Now they act from that hate while proclaiming a message of love. And they are blinded to their own hypocrisy.

This, dear one, is why Jesus came. He came to sever the power and influence the deceiver of the world wields over the minds and hearts of man. He came to restore love and prove its power over hate.

I can’t help thinking of Jesus’ words as He hung on the cross, He Himself a victim of the destructive power of a mob incited through fear.

And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34

How is it possible that people can be so deceived about their own actions?

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4

Our unseen enemy deceives and distorts, hindering our ability to see truth clearly. Jesus proclaimed that He came to restore our sight and set us free from the oppressor.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” Luke 4:18

You see Jesus became to us wisdom from God (1 Corinthians 1:30). He came to reveal truth, to enable us to see.

James 3:13-18 reveals how we can distinguish between the wisdom that comes from the prince of this world and the wisdom that Christ brings.

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (emphasis mine)

Oh, beloved, may we seek God to become a people of true wisdom—wisdom that is pure, peaceable, gentle, reasonable, impartial and sincere. To receive that wisdom, we need only ask its source, the One who created wisdom before He created the earth.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. Psalm 51:6

We have great and precious promises through the Word of God. But we must seek to know true wisdom through Christ, or we will be tossed to and fro. If we aren’t careful, the hatred of the mob will draw us in, and the pure love of Christ within our hearts will grow cold.

Jesus said it will happen to many in the last days.

And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. Matthew 24:12-13

Oh, beloved. Let’s not follow lawlessness and be counted among the cold.

Love is our answer. Only enduring love can save.